Do I Need a Solicitor to Make a Personal Injury Claim?
- Do I need a solicitor to make a personal injury claim?
“Do I need a solicitor to make a personal injury claim?” is possibly among the top five questions that a solicitor is asked and, rather than just answer “yes” or “no”, it was felt that a page explaining why a solicitor should be used when making a personal injury claim would be more appropriate – enabling the reader to make their own decision.
Establishing That You Have a Claim
Even the most apparently straightforward personal injury claim can be not what it seems. Take for example the customer who slips on an item of food on the floor of a supermarket. At first glance it may appear that the supermarket has been negligent in failing to keeping its shop floor clean and free from hazard.
However, if the item of food on which the customer had slipped had fallen from another shopper´s basket just seconds before, the supermarket would justifiably claim that it did not have sufficient time to identify the hazard and remove the risk of injury.
An accident at work which is caused by the negligence of a colleague, an injury sustained by a passenger in a car who agreed to a ride even though the driver had been drinking and the deterioration of an existing condition occur because a patient took medicines which should not have been prescribed for them are all further examples where you may – or may not – have a claim for personal injury compensation.
You might also be entitled to make a personal injury claim without having sustained a physical injury. Quantifiable psychological injuries which can be attributed to a “near-miss” due to somebody else´s negligence may also qualify for personal injury compensation – but establishing that you have a claim for a personal psychological injury when you are the injured party will be exceptionally difficult.
Calculating the Value of a Claim
Another of the most frequent questions that solicitors are asked is “Why did I get this amount of compensation when Mr Jones got that much?” The answer is that no two personal injury claims are the same – even when the injuries that have been sustained are identical.
Take, for example, two thirty year old men who both lose their index finger in an accident at work. One is a keen musician while the other watches television in his spare time. The musician will receive a premium on his compensation award for being unable to pursue his hobby due to his injury.
A woman will receive more personal injury compensation than a man if both sustain facial injuries which result in a visible scar, and a child who develops a permanent disability due to a misdiagnosis of an injury will receive more personal injury compensation than an elderly person who suffers from the same act of medical negligence because the child will have to live longer with the consequences of the misdiagnosis.
These are just a few examples from the many considerations that a solicitor takes into account when calculating the value of a claim for personal injury compensation. The cost of medical care, the loss of earnings and compensation for emotional trauma are all variables which can affect how much compensation for a personal injury you may receive.
Preventing Third Party Capture
“Third party capture” is the act of an insurance company convincing an injured party to accept an offer of personal injury compensation which fails to represent the true value of their injury. It is becoming a more common practice for insurance companies to attempt this unethical strategy when their client has caused an accident in which you – or somebody close to you – have suffered an injury.
Although the insurance company will say that they are simply trying to save potential legal costs by making a direct offer, without undergoing a full assessment of your injuries, the consequences that they will have on your quality of life and what the future financial cost of your injury will be, it is impossible to accurately calculate how much compensation for a personal injury you should be entitled to.
Although it is sometimes tempting to accept these offers when you may be lying in a hospital bed and concerned about supporting your family in the short-term, by actually making an offer of compensation the insurance has effectively admitted their clients negligence and your solicitor will now be able to apply to the court for interim payments of compensation until your claim is resolved.
Even if you use a solicitor to make a personal injury claim, you may still be approached by an insurance company with an offer of compensation and, if you inadvertently accept the offer and it subsequently proves to be inadequate, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more!
Representing You in Court
If there is a denial of negligence, a claim which involves more than one negligent party or a dispute over how much compensation for a personal injury you should receive, it may be necessary to issue court proceedings to get your claim resolved.
The prospect of court action makes many people apprehensive when making a claim for personal injury compensation but with the support and representation of an experienced personal injury solicitor any pressures associated with court action should be taken off your shoulders.
There is no alternative to using a solicitor if you wish to proceed with court action and, although court action is not necessary in the majority of personal injury compensation claims, a solicitor will prepare every claim from its inception to a standard where it can be presented in court.
A court appearance will also be necessary if you are making a personal injury claim on behalf of a child or mentally impaired person, or if you are claiming compensation for a personal assault – in which case it is probable that you will be called as a police witness in the prosecution of your attacker.
Utilising a Professional Service
If you have a burst pipe or faulty wiring in your home, you would call a plumber or electrician to repair the fault. These professionals are trained and experienced in what they do, will deal with the problem in a quick and efficient manner and have insurance in case they fail to provide you with the best possible service.
It is possible to look up how to repair a burst pipe or re-wire your home on the Internet but, should you encounter a problem not covered in a “How to” article, the cost of remedying the situation could be far greater than if you had called a professional in the first place.
The same principal applies to solicitors when you have sustained an injury in an accident for which you were not to blame. Solicitors are trained and experienced, know how to settle personal injury claims in a quick and efficient manner and have insurance in case they produce a poor professional performance.
It is also possible to look up how to process a personal injury claim on the Internet but, at a time when you are recovering from an injury and may be unable to collect evidence of negligence, file accident reports and send Letters of Claim, it makes more sense to utilise a the services of a professional solicitor who will not only take over your personal injury claim – allowing you to focus on making a recovery from your injury – but (at the time of writing) is likely to do so for free!
Alternatives to Using a Solicitor
Inasmuch as the above represents five viable reasons why you should use a solicitor to make a personal injury claim, there are alternatives available.
Claims Management Companies
There are a number of Government registered claims management companies who can assist clients with “straightforward” personal injury claims. However, the claims managers are not legally trained and if there is a dispute over liability or you wish to claim for any more than basic personal injury compensation, they will refer you to an in-house solicitor.
Criminal Injury Compensation Authority
If you are making a personal injury compensation claim because you have been injured in a criminal act, you can apply to the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority (CICA) or, in Northern Ireland, the Compensation Agency. Although there is no need for legal representation when applying to the CICA, an experienced solicitor will be able to guide you through the process and explain your entitlement.
Small Claims Court
If your injuries – and the consequences from them – are minor, you also have the option of making a claim through the Small Claims Courts. In England and Wales, any personal injury compensation claim with a maximum value of £1,000 can be pursued in this way (also in Northern Ireland except for injuries sustained in traffic accidents), however in Scotland you can only make a small claim of up to £3,000 for a faulty product in the Sheriff Court. You are unable to claim personal injury compensation in Scotland for any injury the faulty product has caused in the small claims court.
Fees, Commissions and Expenses
Whichever route you take to claim personal injury compensation, ensure you are fully aware of any fees, commissions and expenses in advance – especially when pursuing your claim through a “No Win – No Fee” arrangement. Many household and car insurance policies include legal fee coverage in them, as do some credit cards and membership of certain motoring organisations, so it may not be expensive as you may imagine to engage a fully experienced injury compensation solicitor to act on your behalf.